Resource Details

Tree species effects on soil properties in experimental plantations in tropical moist forest (Efectos de especies de arboles en las propiedades del suelo en plantaciones experimentales en un bosque humedo tropical)

Literature: Journal Articles Available at NO COST

Russell, A.E., Raich, J.W., Valverde-Barrantes, O.J., & Fisher, R.F. 2007. "Tree species effects on soil properties in experimental plantations in tropical moist forest", Soil Science Society of America Journal, vol. 71, no. 4, pp. 1389-1397.

Contact Info

Corresponding author:


  • Dep. of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA 50011
  • Dep. of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA 50011
  • Texas A&M Univ., College Station, TX 77843


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Species Info

  • Pinus patula spp. tecunumanii (exotic)
  • Pentaclethra macroloba
  • Hyeronima alchorneoides
  • Virola koschnyi
  • Vocysia ferruginea
  • Vocysia guatemalensis


  • This study examined tree plantations in Costa Rica 15 years after establishment (1988-2003), a continuation of the study began by Fisher (1995). They tested five native trees and one exotic pine, and compared them with control sites of pasture and mature forest.
  • The researchers tested four hypotheses -
    • species effects in plantations persist for many years (i.e. different species will affect the soil differently)
    • differences in soil properties are confined to the surface soil (<15cm)
    • species differ in their effects on the quantity of soil organic carbon (SOC), and that a relationship will exist between leaf litter and fine root inputs
    • species differ in their effects on the quality of SOC (available (labile) vs non-available (recalcitrant) soil carbon)
  • Researchers found that soil properties below 15 cm did not differ among species.  
  • After 15 years of plantation growth, soil organic carbon concentrations were correlated with bulk density (they were not after 4 years)
  • P patula had a slight loss of SOC (compared to the pasture control) and V. ferruginea had the biggest gain. SOC was not correlated w surface litter, and SOC was lower and more recalcitrant in Pentaclethra and Virola plantations. SOC declined with fine root content (likely due to the increase in lignin), -- as did rates of Carbon mineralization.
  • Soil Nitrogen was low in the tree plantations (lower than mature forest control and only slightly higher than the pasture).  Extractable Phosphorous had decreased from the high found in year 4 in the initial study.
  • Soil ph in most species was slightly lower than the pasture (4.46) - this is expected as trees induce soil acidification.  
  • Exchangeable cations and CEC did not differ significantly among species nor with the mature forest control, but were lower than in pasture control (suggesting that nutrients are reduced from the soil and held in the tree biomass). CEC did not differ significantly between species nor with the pasture and mature forest
  • Conclusions:
    • differences among species persisted into year 15 of the plantations
    • most effects were confined to the surface (near the fine roots)
    • differences in SOC were determined by roots (fine roots negatively affected  soil organic carbon accrual) and not leaf litter
    • SOC  is likely driven by microbial turnover and not lignin input
  • A side note: Abarema adenophora and Stryphnodendron microstachyum were planted at the onset of the study in 1988 but had both died, and Vochysia spp. were growing the best, but after 15 years, Vocysia ferruginea was beginning to die from a fungal disease.

Geographical Region

  • Southern Central America
  • Ecosystems

  • Tropical Wet Forest
  • Country

  • Costa Rica
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